An article called Think Twice Before You Buy This Type of Burger by The Food Babe, aka Vani Hari, who you may remember from the Subway-yoga mat “scandal”, detailing the supposedly scary ingredients in a typical veggie burger has been making the rounds in the run up to BBQ season. But like pretty much everything The Food Babe has written, this article is simply pseudoscientific nonsense that plays on the public’s fears and misunderstanding of food chemistry. Over the next five days I hope to break down each claim, one by one. Let’s go…
The first issue The Food Babe raises is that of “neurotoxins & carcinogens”, particularly in the form of hexane. During the processing of some soy for veggie burgers and other soy protein products a solvent called hexane is used to extract the oil. Over the years a number of groups such as the Weston A Price Foundation and The Cornucopia Institute have sought to exploit public fears of this issue for their anti-soy and pro-organic agendas. Fortunately though for those that enjoy a good veggie burger this is probably not a big concern, most if not all hexane is removed during processing but sometimes a small amount in the parts per million range remains behind. While the US has yet to set limits for hexane residues in soyfoods the levels of hexane residue claimed by folks such as the The Cornucopia Institute are below limits set by the generally cautious and conservative EU. To reach a reasonable level of concern one would have to consume many thousands of veggie burgers or drink dozens of gallons of vegetable oil.
If you really are still concerned, not to worry, there are many brands of veggie burger on the market that do not use hexane. Finding them is just a Google search away. As for me, I’m not too worried so make my burger a double.
Hexane in Soy Food on Berkeley Wellness
Hexane in veggie burgers: little science behind the claims by Virginia Messina
Is Your Veggie Burger Killing You? The risks of hexane in soy products. by Brian Palmer
Do Veggie Burgers Contain Hexane? by Shereen Lehman
Vani Hari (a.k.a. The Food Babe): The Jenny McCarthy of food by David Gorski
Useful Idiot Alert: The Food Babe by Julie Gunlock
Chemicals in Food: Who cares about Science? by Amy Hawthorne